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benjamin franklin was webster's inspiration. he also did many kinds of writing. i think webster pattern his whole career after franklin. >> it looks like that is it. why don't we save a little time for one on one q. and a., and i think there still some books out there if people haven't received their books but i'm sure they would love to get your autograph. i would just like to thank josh kendall for coming out tonight. let's give him a big round of applause. [applause] ..?
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>> in an interment camp in idaho and how his art examines issues of ethnicity, race, and the japanese-american experience. get the complete weekend schedule at c-span.org/history. >> gordon wood presents a series of essays that examine the underpinnings of the american revolution. mr. wood explores the origins of american exceptionalism, the founders' belief in revolution and the radicalism in the 18th century. this is about an hour and 20 minutes. >> gordon, it's good to be here with you. >> great to be here with you.
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>> um, i just want to say one thing to the audience before we start, that it's a real treat. gordon wood is really one of the nation's preeminent historians of the revolutionary period if not the preeminent historian. and he's learned, he's at times and i say this in the best sense of the word, contrarian, and he says what he feels. and his book, "the idea of america," is just a fabulous book. you'll be doing a book signing afterwards, if i'm not mistaken, and it really is one of those books that if you love history -- not just the revolutionary period, but history in general -- this is something you really should have on your book shelf. so having said that plug, and i'm hoping for 10% afterwards -- [laughter] what i thought we would do is start off by i'd like to prove some general questions about history and then talk about you a little bit, and then we'll ease our way into the book as
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well. to start, since we're here at the national archives, the first thing that i wanted to get your thoughts on was the following: many of us within the historical field have lamented the lack of historical knowledge among young people. and can you take a second and tell us why is it important that we study history? >> well, history is to a society, i suppose, what memory is to an individual. without knowing where you came from, what your background is, you'd be lost. i mean, i think there's a movie where a man has no memory, memento or something? can you imagine how terrifying that would be, not knowing your past? and i think that's, for society i think that's a comparable situation. if you don't know where we come from, it's going to be difficult to know where we're going to go. and so i think to get our bearings, our directions, we need to know where we've been. so that's the classic answer to
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why we should study history. i think it is the queen of the humanities, and without knowing history i think one is live -- living in a two-dimensional world not experiencing reality as it ought to be experienced. i think history is a mode of understanding, i think it's as important as the other senses, and once you acquire a historical sense -- and i don't think history is just information about the past, i think once you study history and read enough you develop what i would call a historical sense so you see the world differently. and an added dimension on the world, on reality. and suddenly, the whole world appears different, the perception of your present is different because you have an understanding of the past. >> um, as we sit here speaking, these set of remarkable,
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momentous events are sweeping the world today in the middle east. the so-called arab spring where people are rising up, and they're trying to grab a piece of, um, a greater say in their destinies, a greater sense of self-determination. what do you think the founders could teach them? and in the same breath, what can they learn by looking at the experience of america as they, young americans wrestled with setting up their republic? >> well, presumably, these people are seeking democracy. that's what we're told. and i think that's true. they want to vote, they want all the other things that come, in their minds, with democracy. they see how the rest of the world is living, and they want a share in that. i think the issue is that democracy is hard work. it does not come easy. and authoritarian governments are easy to put together. and the world has always had
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authoritarian governments, monarchies. although monarchy's the wrong word to use now because we have a lot of benign monarchies; england, sweden, holland. but that's how the founders saw it. monarchy was the enemy, and what they meant was authoritarian governments. authoritarian governments have existed from time immemorial because it's difficult to govern a democracy because it has to be dworched from the bottom up. people have to be willing to sacrifice their selfish interests for the good of the whole. that's what the founders meant by virtue, class call term. surrendering somebody your private interest for the sake of the public good. it required a lot of self-sacrifice. and it's not easy to do. month skew who was the leading french philosopher of the 19th century -- 18th centre very much read by the found inners said
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democracy can only exist in small states. that was a very, very important principle with which the founders had to confront when they were drawing up the federal constitution. because he would not at all be surprised by what happened when tito, for example, was removed, authoritarian government was removed from yugoslavia. suddenly the serbs and the other ethnic groups were at each other's throats in the yugoslav area. so, or when the soviet union was removed, suddenly all the various parts began fighting with one another. he would have said, of course. once you remove this authority from the top down, then these various ethnicities, these various differences are going to come to the fore, and they make democracy very difficult because people have to willingly surrender some of their selfish interests. and that's not easy to do.
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the founders would have been, and they became very pessimistic about the ability of other peoples to become democratic. they thought the french were following them ten years later, and, of course, many french leaders thought so too. i mean, lafayette who was at the outset, one of the leaders of the french revolution in 1789, he sent the key to the bass teen -- the bastille being the prison. july 14th is still celebrated as the beginning of the french revolution, he sent that key to george washington, and it hangs today in mount vernon. that was his way of saying to washington, you americans are responsible for our revolution, and the americans assumed that. that they were responsible. and they thought they were responsible for all the revolutions that took place in the 19th century. that somehow or other they were in the vanguard of history spreading democracy around the world. but when the french revolution
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spiraled into, as you've written about in your great book, "great upheaval," spiraling into tyranny, then they became pessimistic about the ability of other peoples to be like them. which gave us that notion, gave them that notion that they were exceptional. the exceptionalism theme which is very controversial is in comparison with europe. but the hope, the dream that other peoples would follow us has always been there, and that is one of the articles, one of the essays, my lasts essay in the book is why america wants to spread democracy around the world. we wanted to do that from the very beginning. not necessarily sending troops, but by example, by showing the world that we could do that. and that's what lincoln was all about in his mobilizing the north, the civil war, the last best hope that could we survive?
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because the world was already no noncl. there were no democracies left. and so lincoln was appealing to that dream that we had to keep the hope alive. so i think that's billion part of our history -- been part of our history from the beginning. >> >> so would the founders be counseling patience as we watch these developments take place? be would they be saying, hey, it should be happening quickly or it took us time, and we came out of enlightened tradition. they are not coming out of that tradition, and maybe we should expect this will take a generation or perhaps even longer? >> well, i think some of the founders would be more -- they didn't have a single vision. >> thank you. >> someone like jefferson would be enthusiastic and hopeful. he had a magnanimous view of human nature, and people are naturally good-hearted, he felt,
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let people just love one another, then everything will work out. hamilton, on the other hand, is very pessimistic, cynical about human nature, and he would be very pessimistic about what's happening. he'd think, well, we'll see. um, i mean, the one thing they would say is that voting is a prerequisite for democracy. people should vote. but it is the least important part of building a democracy. and that's where the fallacy comes in, i think. americans tend to think that voting by itself can solve a problem when, in fact, you need a civic society, you need all of those institutions which make up our civic society, that make us governable, if you will, and make us work, makes our system work. all of those little things like rotary clubs, religious groups, bowling leagues, anything that tiew -- ties people together and makes their world more complicated than simply you as
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an individual and the state. no democracy can work with that kind of gap. and i think they wouldn't have put it in these terms, this is how political scientists would talk about it today, but they understood that democracy was hard work and does not come easily. >> very interesting. sticking on this theme for just one second, i want to switch our frame for a second. a lot has been written about or talked about how our leaders, and it's often said our president whomever the president might be, that they need to know more about history as they govern. you said some very interesting things over the years about presenting a more nuanced framework in terms of how much we can, how much our leaders can learn from history as they seek to erect policy. tell us a little bit about that if you can for a second. >> well, that's a very tricky issue. i mean, obviously, we hope our
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leaders understand our past because they are carrying on a tradition. so they have to have some grounding in america's past or else they will lose their wayment i don't think -- way. i don't think there's any doubt of that. of course, too much historical consciousness can be problems. as niche chi pointed out, if you want to be a man on horseback, forget the past. because the more you're aware of the difficulties and the unanticipated consequences of action that history does breed, there's no doubt that history teaches you that nothing quite works out the way the perpetrators intended. and if you absorb that message too fully, you're going to be paralyzed. you're not going to know what to do for fear that you're going to create contrary results. and that is one fortunately, perhaps, one of the lessons of history.
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i don't think there's much danger of us, of our leaders becoming paralyzed in that sense. so i think that probably we can take a little more. what history does is take you off the roller coaster of emotions, that this is the best of times or the worst of times. you get perspective on things and, therefore, you get a sense that, look, it's not as bad as you think it is. or it's not as great as you think it is. and that's probably healthy for any society. and i think we're a fairly healthy society compared to many peoples in the world. so i'm confident that we have just the right balance, i think, for the most part. we're not on a roller coaster. we can be, the press can get very excited and feel that this is the end, that somehow people feel that the united states is declining, and they said -- those of you of a certain age remember the 1980s. japan was going to take over the world. they bought rockefeller center, and they were going to put us in the dust bin of history. well, it didn't happen, and i
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think we needed to have a little more perspective. and now it's going to be china that's going to bury us. i think we're going to be around a little bit longer. i think that's what history does, level out your emotions. it's not the end of the world, nor is it the apocalyptic time coming either. >> so i guess the lesson is in part, read your new york times, watch c-span, listen to npr. however, also read your history. >> well, i also read "the wall street journal" as well as "the new york times" to get a balanced view. [laughter] >> and our friends at the journal will like that. >> yeah. >> um, if founders were somehow magically transported here today, what would they recognize, and what would shock them? >> well, the question you ask is interesting in itself. i give a talk to people like this audience here, and inevitably someone will say,
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well, what would thomas jefferson think of affirmative action, or what would george washington think of the invasion of iraq? i mean, those are really fascinating questions that people, ordinary people will ask. and, you know, you can't imagine other countries doing that. i mean, i don't think anyone in england would say, well, what would one of the two william pitts' think of david cameron's goth? they just wouldn't ask that. so we have an intimate connection. and historians have mocked that. and i don't mock it. lincoln had that connection, however, and it's not so easy to mock lincoln. he felt, and he said i think in 1858 in a speech, he said we are one with these founder. blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh. i mean, that's really identifying with them. and he says there's an electric
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chord that ties us to them, and i think that's the feeling we have, that this is the source of our identity. we go back to these people to find out who we are. they created our institutions by which we still govern ourselves, they infused into our culture almost everything we believe, our noblist ideals, our highest aspirations come out of the revolution. the revolution's the most important event this our history -- in our history. so it's natural for us to go back there because there's nothing else that holds us together. there's no american ethnicity. every race, creed and color is here in the united states, and we're not like the parish or the -- british or the english or the french or the germans. they have a sense of their ethnicity, of their nation hood which makes it very difficult for them to handle immigration. now, we think we have immigration problems, but i think they pale in significance compared to the problems these european states, these european peoples are facing and will face
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over the rest of this 21st century as we have this massive movement from the south to the north. they, you know, those arabs have been living in france for several generations, and yet most frenchmen can't believe they're really french. we don't have that kind of problem, really, compared to the europeans. and it's because there is no american ethnicity, and what makes us one people are these ideals. you know, to be an american is not to be somebody, but to believe in something. and what do we believe in? the things that came out of this founding, out of this revolution; equality, liberty, constitutionalism, and the institutions that the constitution created. so i think we go back -- and that's why i think people have this instinctive relationship with them. they identify with them in this unusual, if not unique manner. feeling they're flesh of our flesh or blood of our blood as
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lincoln said. so that's where we get our -- we reaffirm who we are by going back to these founders. so that's why they have this special importance even though they differed all among themselves, you know, from on the right you have hamilton who's very, very pessimistic about human nature, and then on the left you have a radical like jefferson who had a very magnanimous view of human nature. they differed tremendously, and yet we lump them together because they are meaningful to us. >> well, in the spirit of not lumping them together, let's pretend you were able to attend a dinner party with the founders. who is the one founder who would most want to sit next to? >> well, yeah, i think franklin and jefferson would be the most interesting. adams would be too. george washington, whom i respect the most, would not be a good dinner partner. [laughter] i mean, he just didn't talk much. [laughter]
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and he was not an intellectual. he had no intellectual pretensions. he did not go to college. but he had what you want in your leader, is wisdom. and he was a great leader and, of course, he stands head and shoulders above all the others in their eyes. now, we tend to lump them all together in our eyes. they're all part of that founding group. but in their eyes there was one person who stood way ahead of the others, and that's washington. they concocted the presidency and they gave it so much power simply because they knew george washington would be the first president. and he could be trusted. with good reason. he had acted in a manner that nobody had ever heard of before except for this distant -- [inaudible] that is to say he had surrendered his sword to the authorities and said i'm going back to my farm at mount vernon, i want no more public office. now, no general in recent history had ever done that or
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even going back to julius caesar. every successful general wanted political office commensurate with their military victories, achievements. and that was true of cromwell, it was true of william of orange who became king of england, it was true of marlboro. these people wanted political office, and he didn't. washington didn't. and they were stunned. the world was stunned. that's what created his mystique. it's not his victories in the war because he didn't really have too many. i mean, yorktown was with actually da french vect -- a french victory. but he held the nation together, the army together, and then he veppedded this -- surrendered this position. he could have been dictator, he could have been king, and he didn't want it. george the iii said if he does that, retires, he'll be the greatest man in the world. so he had this elevated position in their eyes, and he represented everything they wanted a leader to be; virtuous.
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he very self-consciously worked at that. there's no person in our history who was so self-conscious about being virtuous. disinterested was the term he often used as a synonym for virtue. we don't even use the term in that way anymore. disinterested means uninterested for us, but for them it meant impartial, rising above one's interests. we blurred the two because we can't even believe anybody's truly disinterested. i guess the only disinterested people left in our country -- not judges anymore, because, you know, they run for office on the state level -- but umpires and referees at sporting events, they're the really people we count on being truly disinterested, meaning impartial. rising above an emotional or economic interest. they counted on their leaders being disinterested, and washington was. >> yet talk about their relationship for a minute.
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it's often said today that politics is really vicious. and by the same token there's a general impression among many that the founders were cut out, chiseled out of marble, these austere figures somehow benignly creating this magical government called the unite of america. >> right. >> how did they get along with each other? >> >> jay, in his book "great upheaval" knows as well as i, the 1790s were one of the most vicious decades in our history, coming very close in 1798 to a civil war. as close as we would come until the actual several war. they did not get along. i mean, hamilton is frightened of what jefferson represents. and washington too. washington and hamilton on one side frightened of these what they thought were frankophiles. they thought they were going to
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support a french puppet regime. the french army's going to invade the united states -- this was a real fear. now, in retrospect it looks foolish, but they didn't know the future. the people back there don't know what's going to happen to them any more than we know the future ourselves. so they feared the federalists, hamilton/washington's party and many federalists feared a french invasion because france, after all, napoleon's going into holland, they're creating puppet regimes all over europe, why couldn't they just invade the united states? they've got all these fifth colonists, these jeffersonian republicans who are very pro-french, and they're going to create a puppet regime. that's the real fear. what lies behind the alien and sedition acts of 1798. they're truly frightened. now, the thing that kills off the fear is, of course, nelson's victory at the nile. he destroys napoleon's fleet, and once napoleon has no fleet,
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then there's no fear of an invasion. now, washington is truly frightened, and he talks about we cannot have a french president, meaning jefferson. so that -- they were very much at each other's throats and very frightened of one another in the 1790s. and the press, we think our press is kind of rough, as you know better than i, it was just vicious in the 1790s. i mean, they accused washington of being a mole during the revolution. he was working for the british government. that's the accusation that was made. it's just incredible, the kinds of distortions and lies that were flying about. washington just could shake his head and just couldn't believe it, and he just didn't want to read any newspapers because they were saying these awful things about him. he was so desperate in 1736 to get -- 1796 to get back to mount vernon and out of this political world. >> his cabinet would actually
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notice he was aging before their veryize, and didn't he have one cabinet meeting and say, by god -- i don't think i can say this because of c-span. [laughter] >> well, no. he was very deeply disillusioned by what was happening, and his last letter or one of his last letters -- it's six months before he dies in july. the federalists are desperate to get him back into powerment they want him to run against jefferson, come back. you've got to be president, you're going to save the country. this is in july of 1799. and he writes really despairing letter. he says, look, it doesn't matter. you could put up a -- the way things are now, parties have taken over. you could put up a broom stick, a broom stick and call it a son of liberty, and the broom stick would win. and he says that's true of the frankophiles of the french party, and he says, alas, it's
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just as true of us, federalists. parties have taken over. character, stature, individual character no longer matters. it's who's the party candidate. and it's full of despair. and in a sense he was right because parties had begun to emerge and were taking over. there are and he felt his kind of leader would no longer matter. and, of course, that became increasingly true over the next 20 or 30 years as the society became more democratic. much more populist. and by the time you get to someone like martin van buren, then you're getting people who have no distinction whatsoever. martin van buren never won a battle, he never was a great figure. he just was a canny politician, and he built the biggest or the best party organization that the state of new york had ever seen and probably has ever seen. and catapulted himself into the presidency. but that's, that was the world that the founders had not anticipated, that popular world.
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when jefferson heard that andrew jackson almost won the election of 1824, he was appalled. he says, that man has no college education. he's a ruffian from the west. fortunately, jefferson died in 1826, and he department actually get to see jackson get to be president. [laughter] so they were all, those who live into the 19th century, were deeply disillusioned with what they would wrought. i don't know of any who wasn't -- i mean, franklin died in 1790, you know? thankfully, because he didn't witness this world. but those who lived into the 19th century were deeply disillusioned with the populism, the kind of democracy that had emerged. it was much too vulgar, much too plebe yang. >> and, of course, the founders did not start out wanting to create a democracy. >> not that kind of democracy. >> not that kind of democracy. >> no. i mean, they wanted -- they didn't have any objection to
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voting, be but they wanted -- i mean, the institution is kind of a curve on democracy. one of the problems the founders faced was the acceptance of democracy. state legislatures running wild passing what madison referred to as faction alma yoretarian tyranny, something that hadn't been anticipated by good patriots in 1776. no one in 1776 anticipated, even imagined the kind of strong national government that came out of the constitution ten years later. so something awful had to happen between 1776 and 1787 to convince people to create a national government that hadn't even been on the radar screen, hadn't been in min anyone's mind. and we know how strong that government is because we still live under it. so the thing that happened was a series of weaknesses in the articles, but more important was the fear of democracy running amok. and that's what led madison to
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create his virginia plan, and the resulting constitution which acts as a kind of limit on democracy. we have other limits. the courts, and the courts became a very important federalist device for limiting democracy. we don't like to think in these terms because we have tremendous trust in the people, but we know that we have built in all kinds of limitations on the people. we don't like clear, unadulterateed majoritarian democracy. and if egyptians or the other mideast states create just majoritarian democracy, then they may experience some of the problems the americans faced in the 1780s because you want limits. we want, we want liberal democracy. we want rights, individual liberties, minority rights. we have a lot of checks on democracy. our democracy's a mixed bag. it's not just pure
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majoritarianism, and that's a lesson they learned, and that's why the constitution is so complicated with separation of powers, breaking up power, limiting government. because they learned a lesson in a very short period of time in the 1780s. >> talk about the caliber of the founders for just one more moment. when we think of the fact that they have created this constitution that has endured to this day, it really is a remarkable event. what happened in those 55 days when they went to philadelphia, and they just wanted to redo the articles of confederation, and all of a sudden they did something both extralegal and totally unexpected? >> right, right. >> and then related to that, if you could talk for a minute if you can just about the caliber of these people, these founders, these men who put it all together in a way that no one else in the history had quite seen. >> right. well, they weren't superhuman, they aren't demagogues.
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i mean, although jefferson referred to them. they were very well educated, the ones at the convention, 55 men. most of them college graduates, about 34 of the 55 were lawyers. they were experienced political figures. they had served in the continue innocental congress -- continental congress or in their state legislatures or had been governors or diplomats. they were experienced people. they were very -- it was a loaded convention. most of them were nationalists, that is to say they wanted a strong government. they didn't have, it's probably a good thing that jefferson was abroad as minister of france because he was a late federalist, and he would have raised cane in the convention because i think he would have not liked the virginia plan that his friend and colleague, madison, proposed. which was really an extraordinarily strong government. so, um, so you have a kind of loaded convention. lancing and yates from new york
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who were real anti-federalists. as soon as they see this virginia plan merge and they begin to grasp the implications of it, they walk out. we don't want this. this isn't what we bargained for. and so the result, of course, is the -- they met for almost four months. i mean, think of it. they closed off the, they closed the windows. they didn't want anybody to know what they were saying. they took vows of secrecy, they put guards at the door, no press. of course, we couldn't get away with that today. they, madison later said we could never have done it if press had been involved because this allowed people to make statements that they could then retract because there's no record, you know, nobody's going to hold you to it. you can move back and forth. and, of course, there's something to be said for that kind of secrecy behind doors because other side if press is there, you make a statement, and you're held to that, and you have no compromise. they compromised all over the
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place. now, madison who was the one who drew up the virginia plan, he wrote it, was deeply disappointed with the result. he thought -- he had two main points that he wanted. one was a negative or veto power given to the congress over all state laws. i mean, think of it, the impracticality of it. this was a bright guy, but he didn't think through. what would it be like for all 50 states to have to send everything to congress? well, it was totally impractical, and it gets thrown out and replaced by article i, section 10 which lists a few things the states can't do like print paper money. thank god. [laughter] you can imagine. the other thing madison wanted was proportional representation in both houses. he wanted the states out of the government. no senate, in other words, with two senators from each state. and when that is -- the convention wouldn't go along
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with this. there were small states who said like new jersey and connecticut that said we're not giving up -- at least in one house we've got to be represented as a state. and he loses that battle. and he's in despair. he loses those two battles. mid july he caucuses with his fellow nationalists the next day and says, let's walk out. maybe we should walk out of this convention. if virginia had walked out, that's the end. you have to understand virginia is the top dog among all the states. virginia has a fifth of the population in the nation. it's by far the richest, biggest state in territory. it includes much of the present midwest. so as virginia goes, so does the nation. and without virginia you have no nation. it's not surprising, four out of the first five presidents were virginia items. -- virginians. so that would have ended the convention. it would have collapsed without virginia. they decide to stay, and they
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cobble together this result which madison's not happy about. he writes a letter to jefferson. you can read those letters, some of them may be here. certain hi in the high prayer of -- certainly in the library of congress. he says this thing's not going to work, i lost my negative. it goes right by jefferson. he's been in paris for several years, he doesn't really grasp what madison's telling him. and all he says is, oh, we should have a bill of rights. and madison just groans when he hears that. and then jefferson writes to another friend in maryland saying the same thing. lacking a bill of rights, well, that becomes a principle agent on behalf of the anti-federalists. and one of their principle arguments. and it almost brings the constitution down. i mean, it's a lot of feeling. jefferson's reason for that was because his liberal friends, lafayette and others, say that no good constitution can be without a bill of rights.
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and all my liberal friend say that and, therefore, we should have one. he hasn't thought through the problem the way madison has. madison has a very, very intelligent answer to that question, why there's no bill of rights, but it doesn't have any effect on jefferson. and the power of the notion of a bill of rights which, of course, is part of the english tradition is picked up by others, and it becomes one of the most to tent arguments of the opponents of the constitution. >> and, of course, near the end of your book you have a very, what i think is a very poignant instant where you talk about giving a speech in warsaw, i believe it was -- >> oh, yeah. right. >> -- and a woman says to you, okay, you've been talking about the constitution. what about the bill of rights? >> yeah. this was a really extraordinary experience in my life because it was in 1976, and i was in warsaw promoting the bicentennial of our revolution. now, this was before solidarity. the communists are still in control. our room, my room was bugged,
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and i had a handler all over the place. i mean, this is still an authoritarian state. and so i give this very convention aleckture on the american revolution, and this young polish woman, academic, raises her hand and says, professor wood, you left out the most important part of the american revolution. and that's why i was stunned, the most important part i left out? [laughter] she says, yes, you never mentioned the bill of rights. and i hadn't. i mean, i had taken that for granted: but this woman concerned with individual liberty, she couldn't take those individual right for granted. and so that, for her, was what was the most important part of the revolution. i've never forgotten that incident because it happened. she took a lot -- it took a lot of courage for her to say that. i mean, there were people in that audience who were probably going to investigate her. i mean, things were changing. but it's 1980 when you have solidarity, so this is four year before solidarity.
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she was going to be questioned, i'm sure, for just even asking that question. it took courage. and that, i have never forgotten that. >> one of the things that you've also been describing as i sort of pick through some of the strands of our conversation is you're talking about discord, tumult, the threat of civil war. in order, were you really -- what you're really talking about is the american experiment was, in the beginning, a very fragile experiment. >> i got the idea from you, "grand upheaval, "right? [laughter] >> well, you deal with the larger world, the larger atlantic world. jay's book includes russia and france as well as the united states. it was a period of great tumult. i mean, it makes the arab spring seem tame by comparison because this was a major, major transformation in european world. and all of them failed. except the united states. now, some people could say we
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failed in 1861, although we survived that. but it was not easy to build a democratic policy. and i think that's the one lesson you draw from that experience. and in some sense we failed because we fell apart, and we killed each other at the rate of 600,000-plus men died to build, to build this dream. which is what lincoln used. i mean, that -- you know, what's interesting about the civil war is not the fact that the south seceded because people have been talking about secession from the very beginning. you know, the federalists are talking about secede anything 1803, 1805, 1814. the south's talking about secession all the way up to the actual secession. so it's not a big deal. but the interesting question is, why did the north care? some why didn't they let 'em go? >> and? >> and what's fascinating is that lincoln, i think, voiced
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the idea of america, that we are a grand experiment, and it's worth fighting for that. because the world counts on us. we are the last best hope, and if we fail, then democracy fail everywhere. there's no -- people -- oppressed people are looking to us. that's the message he gave. and it was inspiring. i think people, i mean, they didn't go to war and fight and lose 300 and some thousand men simply because of some economic interest be in the nation -- in the nation. it was this dream that lincoln, and that's the genius of lincoln. not that he created these ideas, but that he voiced them in a way that was appealing to people. he caught the mood of the country in a way that was able to mobilize for four long, bloody years. it was just incredible. >> and he was organically connect today what you write about in your book, what you say is the idea of america.
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>> well, that's what he says, blood of our blood. >> blood of our blood. >> 234erb of our flesh, these founders. he is the one great president who has used the founding better than anyone else. and as i say, i think everybody has some connection with him. >> now, i, i want today ask you this even though it's putting on my hat as a civil war historian, not the revolutionary period. was lincoln correct in saying that secession -- and this is according to what the founders would say -- that secession was illegal? >> well -- >> i mean, i'll tip my hat. my view is lincoln was not correct, but he did the right thing anyway. >> yeah. well, it depends on what you mean by was it legal or illegal to leave the union? that was debatable, let's put it that way. and the south had a case to make that that's how they saw the union, as a loose confederacy. and, of course, up to the civil war the united states was always defined in the plural. the united states are.
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we were much closer through those years to the present-day european union than we are to the kind of united states we have now which is a very, very really quite tight-knit national government. so people thought of, and especially in the south, thought of themselves as being part of a confederation, if anything. separate states. and so when you talked about my country, they often meant virginia. i mean, when lee had to make that decision should i, you know, lee was a west point graduate, should i support the united states, or should i support virginia? his emotional loyalty was still to virginia, and i think that was still strong. hard for us to understand because the states for us, for the most part, are one unit. we don't really think of ourselves as emotionally attached. but the founders did, of course, and that's why the forming of the government was so difficult, because people thought of their
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country as virginia or montana or pennsylvania. i mean, they had 100 years of loyalty to overcome. it's similar to what the e.u. faces today. how can you create a european consciousness when you're a frenchman. i mean, the loyalty to your nation is so strong, how do you create this european union? well, it's not easy. and that was the problem the founders faced in creating the united states. what is it to be an american? that was very, very difficult. and as the civil war proved, it fell apart. but there was lincoln the voice the other side, that there is something, that we have a dream. we have a dream that we are a nation that has an exceptional mission in the world to preserve democracy and bring it to the rest of the world. not by force, not by troops, but to -- you know, all through the 19th century we were supported almost every revolution.
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there's one exception, but we support all those revolutions. greek revolution of 1821, french revolution of 1830, the revolutions of 1848 which tore up europe all failed, of course, but we supported them. we were the fist state to recognize the new republican democratic regimes. they get overthrown, but we were the first state, and we kept pushing for that. there's one exception, as you know; haiti. we don't recognize the haitian republic until lincoln's administration. for the very reasons that the south had dominated the federal goth to such an extent that that was just an impossibility to recognize a slave, a slave regime. but lincoln did. but otherwise we recognize these other states. now, the big change comes in 1917. that's when it takes a very interesting form. the russian revolution. in the spring you have the czar
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abdicate. seven days later we recognized a new russian republic. and wilson, president wilson's ecstatic. he has a fit partner for his league now, democratic league. and we're the first power in the world to recognize the new russian regime, republican regime. this is before the communists take over. a few months later the bolsheviks overthrow the government, and you have a bolshevik regime. what happens? the united states instead of being the first, we become the last major state in the world to recognize the soviet union. sixteen years, four presidencies. the last major -- i think ireland was the last, but we are the last major state to recognize the soviet union. what a contrast. why? well, my explanation, and i think it's the only one that makes sense, is that we saw in
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the communist ideology a rival to our own. we were no longer, according to this soviets, in the vanguard of history. this was not a species of the genus, the revolutionary genus americanas. and that was a threat, the same kind of universalist aspirations as our own. so the conflict between the soviet union and the united states is an intellectual one from the very beginning. not just competing market societies, but the fact that we were faced with a rival ideology that was as comprehensive and as universalist as our own. and that, you know, the cold war really begins in 1917. now, there's a blip through the wall because nazi germany represented a much more serious threat, it seemed, than -- but
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we were quickly back after the war. and you know, you remember -- some of you of a certain age remember president kennedy's inaugural address. we pay any price -- we will pay any price, bear any burden on behalf of liberty. and that's why we went into vietnam. not for rice. we weren't trying to get oil or rice out of vietnam. we went in there because we thought, we really feared the spread of this communist, this communist ideology. and with the collapse of the soviet union in 1989, everything changed. and now i think we're in a state of confusion, not sure where we are, what we should do. but we are at an extraordinary moment in our history. you know, our military expenditures are equal to, almost equal to all the other faces in the -- nations in the world put together. we have a million men and women under arms. we have trooped in probably 40 countries. i mean, no country has ever
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dominated the world as we do. this is just extraordinary. i mean, rome never did this, britain never did this. we have this dominance. it may not be an empire in the usual sense of the term, but it is an extraordinary kind of dominance. and yet we're not quite sure what we should be doing. and that, i think, came out in the libyan business, and it's our hesitation in the middle east. we're not sure that this is good for us. we'll have to see. at the same time, we can't stand in the way of people wanting to be democratic. so we've had an extraordinary history, and we're live anything a very -- live anything a very, a very difficult time or a significant time too. >> let's go back and tie this to the very beginning. if we're talking about the soviet union, of course, in the case of russia they ip herted a large -- inherited a large land maas. they'd had some 800 years of
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history. they'd had czars that had ruled the world. in our founding, and you write about this very powerfully, and you talk about the audacity of the young americans and this little land mass at the edge of the world. and now they thought they were going to remake the world. how did that come about? what gave them that audacity? >> it's true when you think about it. this is a country of two or three million people 3,000 miles from the centers of civilization on the outpost of civilization. the idea that they, their little colonial rebellion had worldwide significance is really arrogance. if we think about it, it's audacity of these people to think of -- yet they did. and, of course, there were radicals in england who agreed with them. i mean, richard price, unitarian minister, he says the american revolution is next to the birth of christ. and he's a minister.
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it is the most important event in the history of the world. so we were second, but only the birth of christ was first. that's an extraordinary statement. and others felt in france felt the same. people were interested in this revolution. because the a republican revolution. could a republic -- meaning a democracy, i think that's the best way for us to understand it -- could it survive especially over such a large ec tent? and so they were wondering too. and, of course, the british thought, oh, my god, this thing won't last. this is bound to fail because democracies just can't be that big. it's going to go, it's going to go kaput very quickly. and that was the expectation. and, of course, that's what americans are thinking about. that's what lincoln, why he's so obsessed with why we are an experiment. we've got to show them. of course, the british were just hoping that this civil war would break the country apart. you know, the british never studied american history very much. and when they started studying
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it, it was only in the late 20th century, they studied only one subject: the civil war. what else would they study? [laughter] they were just hoping that maybe it'll come out differently if we study it enough. [laughter] it was, you know, but american were filled with this notion that we were in the vanguard of history, that we had a message to bring to the world and that that's how we saw ourselves. now, it may be delusional. the french never have admitted that our revolution was more important than theirs. in fact -- [laughter] they somehow think that theirs came first. [laughter] they can't really admit that 1776 precedes 1739. -- 1783. >> with we may be historians, but we can do that mathematics. >> i mean, the americans never forgot that we were the fist, and we always -- first, and we always assumed that the french were copying us.
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as i say, some frenchmen agreed with that. but for the most part if you went to people in -- well, there is a classic example of this kind of american chut pa. napoleon's empire gets overthrown in 1870. the third french republican is established. president grant sends a message to the new french republic congratulating him on adopting american political ideals. [laughter] i mean, you can't imagine what these frenchmen must have thought with this message, as if they had no democratic or republican tradition of their own to draw on. they get this, well, you've become american is what grant was saying to them. it was incredible, the kind of self-conscious, i guess you'd call it audacity or arrogance that we had that we were the center of the revolutionary movement throughout the whole 19th century. and, of course, that's why we were so upset by the soviet takeover of the russian revolution. because we were in the vanguard
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of history. we were leading the world, and they're all going to follow us. and we've continued to have that sense that we have something to say to the rest of the world. but i think it's a little muted now, it's a little confused because we're so powerful. it was easier for the americans in the 19th century because they didn't have huge armies. they didn't, they weren't powerful. there could, we could preach as finish therefore, we could preach as much as we wanted without causing any great trouble in the world. nowadays it's a little trickier. >> tbor done, i think we've had a fascinating hour. what i'd like to do at this point -- >> get the audience involved. >> -- is get the audience involved, and let's do some q&a. um, there are microphones here on the side. so try to line up with those microphones because this is being taped. you'll be on c-span. >> okay to go.
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i thought that this is a really great talk that you gave, very exciting. and i wanted to ask you about the practicalities that, you know, the founding fathers faced. they were on the east coast, and they knew perfectly well that there was a whole long, you know, 3,000 miles to the west coast. and thought that practically speaking, you know, they weren't going to let just anybody occupy that area. so i thought that maybe there was that as a kind of inspiration to think of yourself as important. you really had quite a task ahead of you, and it was a really rich part of the world. >> well, i mean, until 1803
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they -- the united states did not own the territory west of the mississippi. so, but i think, um, someone like jefferson who was our greatest expansionist in our history had a vision that all of that territory would come to us. he had what i would call demographic imperialism. we were reproducing ourselves twice as fast as any other nation in western europe. we were doubling our population every 20 years or so. and we, he assumed that we would simply take it over. as long as it was being held by the spanish who were, in his mind, a decrepit, declining empire incapable of holding on to that territory. neither the floridas nor louisiana could be held by the spanish for long. because our demography, our population growth would just fill it out, and they would have to -- because they with respect sending any people -- weren't
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sending any people. i mean, demographically the spanish were not peopling their land. and so we assumed, and i think jefferson more than any, that would all come to us. now, when the spanish treaty retrocedes louisiana back to the french in 1802, that's a crisis for jefferson because the french are a different people altogether. they're powerful. this is napoleon. this is a really -- and he is beside himself. and this is when he makes an effort to. so to answer your question, they have an awareness that we would eventually -- people, some people, some leaders had a sense that we would eventually people this land. jefferson had a loose view of government. he thought it would be very much a confederation, separate states. some people said, well, this western portion will break away from the original united states. he said, oh, what does it
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matter? as long as they think american, we can live with them, we'll be okay. so he didn't worry about the breakup of the union. as long as they had american principle. others contemplated the future. madison thought 200 years later predictions of we would become like england, very luxury-loving and, you know, big states. so they had dreams of the future. but for the immediate future they still had problems because they had britain on their north, canada, and spain was still on the south. so everything was a little tricky. but they had the vision of eventually taking over the whole continent. and more than the continent. mexico, cuba. [laughter] some of them -- jefferson thought cuba would naturally fall to us like ripe fruit. [laughter] i don't know what he thought was going to happen with all those
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spaniards, spanish-speaking people there. yes, sir. >> um, it never occurred to me you'd mention the delay of american recognition of the soviet union. but since you did i'm wondering, isn't this conventional wisdom a little bit mistaken? because i always thought the attitude of ambassador dodd in bear eleven in 1933 -- berlin in many 1933 with whom we did have relations with hitler's germany, but he held the government of that period as a group of psychopaths and gangsters who came to power by illegitimate means. and so up with could really say the same about lenin's seizure of power. so was this really backward on our part, or was this some fundamental ill legit maasty of the communist regime from the start and not just some ideological envy? >> well, i mean, the fact that we were the last, i think, says something. and be, obviously, the other western powers, we sent troops in to try to put down the -- i'm
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not an expert on the russian revolution, so there are people here who probably know more, and i'm sure jay does too. but we, the western powers were frightened by the communist threat, and we made efforts to put it down by force even, and they even sent troops. but i don't think that the reason -- well, it could be that the rise of, and this would be an interesting, i don't know the answer to this, the rise of naziism played into our recognition of the final, recognition of the soviet union in, what was it, 1934? '33, okay. ..
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>> way back in history where freedom fighters from, let's say, russia come to america. they can come to america, there's a treaty of non-extradition. so they are not treated as criminals. >> i don't know if there were any extradition treaties in the early republic. we certainly welcomed refugees from europe, and there were no visa requirements in those days through the 19th century,
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except for late in the century, the asians were restricted. but otherwise anybody could come to america. between 1820-1920, about 35 many people migrated which convinced a lot of americans that the oppressed people of europe were unable to overthrow their government and the way they could get away from these monikers is to migrate to the united states. so it helps convince americans that they were chosen people in the very literal sense, not just a blind since. further the image of ourselves. of course, a lot of these people migrated from europe were leaving because there were no jobs and they were going not just to the united states but also to argentina, for example, but we know about that. we thought they were all coming here. that's part of the myth of america. we have a perception of herself which, what you're saying about exceptionalism, we would be exceptional nation because we are the only democracy.
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we were where people went who wanted freedom. false or not false, you can argue about it but that is the self image and americans have. and it was shared by lots of people. why do we have a statute of liberty given to us by the french. that notion that we were the -- millions of people are very much a part of our self image, perception of ourselves. >> i'm a student at marshall high school. i was wondering, the freedom ideal, the revolution was so widespread come everyone is talking about it in the press but i want to know to what extent did the founding fathers manipulate the populace into forming an organized rebellion? >> yeah, i mean, i think you can manipulate certain things but i
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don't think you can manipulate a whole people into revolution. i mean, there are incidents that are crucial. for example, the tea party, december of 1773. that was a really bold action on the part of samuel adams. they wanted an incident and try to provoke the british government. things had quieted down. the british had passed the stamp act and then we boycott, rights, and very difficult. what they would've done is is very, very difficult decision. all these riots, boycotts. and then things are quite between 1770-1773, nothing is happening. samuel adams wants a revolution. he wants to provoke the british. and so he and a bunch of people in mohawks from indians dumped
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10,000 pounds, value, super, about millions of dollars today, into boston harbor your that provokes the british in a way that was probably a mistake. because the virginians are appalled by this tea party. this is destruction of private property, what are they doing, they are destroying property. the british, however, have had a. they have appeased americans all along for decades. enough is enough, and they come in with a coercive act. they putting military general, they do away, navigate the massachusetts charter, a point the council which had been elected. they do away with the town meetings, except for one meeting a year to vote funds. this is really interference into
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the massachusetts government. and virginians say, without virginia there's no revolution. virginia is as i said is top dog. the virginians are upset by the tea party, but when they see this come they say if they can do that to massachusetts, they can do that to us. from that moment on virginia is on board and the revolution i think it is inevitable. some confrontation is inevitable. so there was an incident by a small tiny minority that is really bold, it was tricky, it could have backfired if the british had come in moderately, which is actually a lot, the virginians might have said we're not going to come to their support. and it might have fizzled at that point. they might have to wait for some of the moment. but in that sense there is a little bit of manipulation. but you don't manipulate a whole people. i mean, just, that was too much support, popular support for it.
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>> thank you for excellent presentation. in your view, today's world, a 20 minute news cycle, c-span, cnn, fox, twitter, blogs, facebook, you mentioned briefly about the secrecy. secrecy. could we have built the same democracy if we would've had the same instantaneous communications and new cycles that we have today? >> i would say that you would not have this arab spring with all these things, twitter and instinct medication. that really was the force. we live in a different world now. everything gets telescoped, and i just think that, i think you really would not have had the spread of writing in the middle east without the modern forms of technology that create instant information. in 18th century, there might
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have been -- the brits might have held off -- if they could communicate back and forth more quickly they might've been able -- thinks might've worked out a little better. they might have delayed the process. because it was a peculiar revolution because americans were revolting him half of english rights. it's a very peculiar revolution and you have to take that into account. the reasons the french revolution failed and the american revolution did not is because the americans had 100 years of self-government. we just forget that. we forget massachusetts, virginia, pennsylvania -- elections, no, they didn't have a lot of democracy but two out of three white adult males could vote. we have bill of rights. we had habeas corpus. where trial by jury. we had experience in self-government. so it made it so much easier for us.
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the french hadn't had a parliament or a state's general budget hadn't met since 1614. they had nothing to draw on. they have no experience electing people. it's not surprising they spiraled into tyranny. we have to keep that in mind. we are deeply indebted to our british heritage because of all those rights that are part of our common law, part of our traditions. so that made a big difference. >> or faster would, you for being here. in your work, the american worker benjamin franklin, you recount have benjamin franklin testified in front of parliament that the u.s., or america as it was, was not, could not be governed by parliament, and yet was still loyal to the king. could you distinguish how, for america, the idea of loyalty to the king was different from loyalty to parliament, and how
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that would work as a practical matter? >> that's a complicated issue, but it is crucial to the revolution. the reason franklin testified is because the rocky him whigs were not in control and they wanted to deal the stamp act to deal with the stamp -- the rights. they had to bring in the only american, famous american who is bench in fun, so he comes in. yes, the american people not accept the standby counsel and. that gives them a cover for repeating the stamp act. but they coupled this with a preparatory act which says in effect look, we are repeating this but we have the right to do it. don't kid yourself, you americans. it is the final lawmaking authority in the british empire, and we have the right. we are just withdrawing it for practical sense but don't get the message wrong.
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that's bad act. that issue, you see, for the englishman, parliament has a sacred quality. are that represents the people. making in english history is always the enemy of the people. english history is a contest between going back to magna carta, tyrannical kings in the people represented in the house of commons from the 13th century on. and so they see the politics. so parliament has a sacred law, and the americans, parliament can't have that quality. and they oppose parliament in 1765 and 1767 and so on. and the british are confused by the. how can you oppose parliament? parliament is sacred bastion of liberty. it is the king who is always a threat to liberty but the americans don't quite see it that way. they are forced by the doctrine of sovereignty, you've got that one final lawmaking authority somewhere, and when they are
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confronted with a choice, and it's given in several debates, they say all right, went under parliament law, we are tied only to the king. that's what the declaration of independence is a interesting, if you read it, it's a series of you, george iii has done this, this and this. they never once mention parliament. parliament passed the standby. parliament passed a coercive act, and yet when it comes to the break, there's no mention. the closest you get is you, george iii, we -- that's the key. read the declaration. that's as close as they come. constitutionally we reached a point by 1774, forced into it by the ryszard, that we are not under parliament at all. we are tied only to the king and, therefore, is often called a commonwealth very of the emperor. we anticipate the statute of
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westminster of 1931 which sets up the present day commonwealth. that is, the queen of england is queen of england and queen of candy, queen of the season, queen of australia. but each of those parliament is free. so that's commonwealth. we anticipate that commonwealth in 1774. we are tied only to the king. we have our own separate legislatures which are sovereign. that's why the only guy that has to be broken is the one with the king. it's kind of an awkward situation because we had respective parliaments rights to pass navigation laws, control our trade. and so we weren't quite clear how to explain that, but nonetheless it makes one interesting constitutional issue. these are lawyers after all. they want everything to be legal, constitutional. so we only have to break one tie now, no mention of parliament. that would cloud the issue.
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so we would break only with the king. i'm not sure that answers your question. >> you mention you can't incite the whole people. i wonder what percent of people in a time where tories, loyalist? >> they had all kinds of estimates. some would say a third. i would say from studies that have been made using groups to raise militia, probably 20% of the population, which is population is to me, what is that, two-and-a-half million, 500,000 people. so it's a healthy proportion. but the majority of the population -- many people were neutral, but the brits never fully appreciated how many, or how few tories there were. when he comes down the hudson valley he counts on loyalist
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support. he doesn't get a. he gets harassed. his army sort of weather's. by the time he gets to saratoga he has lost a good portion of his army. >> where some segments of the country more than other? >> i think are more tories in the south, largely because that western portion had hated the whig, scotch irish in the west. they had been in fights with him, decades or more. and so they had -- well, the enemy of my enemy has got to be my friend. so a lot of tories, there's recruitment of tories. if you see new movie, the patriot, mel gibson's famous movie, where he plays south carolina planter who has hired help, blackout, africans.
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mel gibson as a slave owner, absurd. there's some truth to the ferocious parts of the fighting that takes place because there are lots of loyalists in the carolinas. also in new jersey, hackensack valley, lots of loyalist militia. when the british army comes in the loyalists feel strong and so they come out and they punish the weeks we been harassing them. tarring, setting them. there's a lot of resentment of these loyalist. so they punish the whigs. then after trenton, exposed position and washington crossing the delaware, pixar threaten, oh, my god, i have to pull back, i can't leave -- princeton at same thing. a weekly. so he pulls back his troops. that means the patriot militia can come back into power.
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so yeah, they dishes fighting. it doesn't in the history book. is pretty brutal. there are a lot of people killed, and we don't know because it's all local and guerrilla warfare. >> thanks for this very enlightening discussion. i was one if you've any thoughts on the role of the members of the society of the cincinnati after the war? it's interesting that the patriots set up almost european-style, linear society, there is the. but how do those guys then try to promote the ideal? >> washington so these are my comments. they just want a society to recognize their contribution to the war, these officers. but if it's going to be hereditary, and that creates
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sensation and opposition is really quite the. i have been reading john adams' letters, primary newsletters and he is getting word, he is in england and he is just appalled by this idea of a cincinnati organization. and washington, washington is very sensitive to public sentiment. as soon as he senses there's an public opposition he backs away. he gets the organization to promise that they will not be hereditary. well, of course, they are still around to it is hereditary. on massachusetts avenue they have this huge building, society of cincinnati. they have a great library, and a lot of documents, and it doesn't have any -- but there's a real fear with breeding aristocracy, the very kind of thing that the revolution is about. revolution is anti-blood.
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marriage only should count. people should be distinguished only because of marriage, talent, not because of who your father was or who you married. that scared the bejesus out of a lot of people. i think there's a lot of opposition. it pulls in its own, and an interesting, kind of a lobby group, washington thanks he's got a promise they will not make hereditary, of course they remain a hereditary organization. >> are there any more questions? [inaudible] >> the question was what's the future of the american idea. i wish i knew. i don't think anyone knows the future. historians do not predict. i think what history and i think -- >> if we do we're going to get in trouble. >> jerry would say we would have
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a better sense, that what might not happen. we not going to go off the rail tomorrow. china is not going to take over the world next year. but what the future brings i don't think anyone really knows. it's not going to happen quickly, whatever. if were in decline, look, the romans didn't know there in decline for all those years. they spent centuries thinking they were top dog, so we don't know. >> just remind you all there will be a book signing afterwards where you can both talk to professor wood and get him to sign his marvelous book, which i urge upon all of you, and let me give you a closing thought. not so much highbrow note that may be a middlebrow now. i don't how many of you have seen the movie good will hunting, but there's a very famous scene in a bar where matt damon is vying for this woman,
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and she is dating i think it is a graduate student at harvard, and he says well, i think you must be really smart because you've been reading professor gordon would. well, i don't think there's any doubt after having listened to his conversation he is very smart. [applause] >> thank you very much. >> this event was hosted by the national archives in washington, d.c.. >> it is called "eye of the hurricane," my path of darkness to freedom with a forward by nelson mandela. and your co-author is kim mccloskey. you say here my main purpose in writing this book is to share with you that i have discovered the truth --
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>> to be the truth. >> yeah, the love of truth is the spirit of man, given where i was or how long i'll was there, this is incredible. i have no business at all being here now. >> that is absolutely correct. >> you say you were in jail 40 something years. what do you mean by that? >> i was in jail 47 years. the fact that we are born into a prison actually, when we are born we are born perfect beings, perfect means complete with all of our possibilities impact. but we are also born into world, the level of unconscious human and sanity where hate and war and death and destruction and inequality reigns supreme. so we are actually born into a prison at so i was in that prison for the first 40 years of
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my life until i was able to wake up and get out of that prison and realize who i really am. >> let's come to you really are in a second but let's just for the viewer's sake say that you were actually incarcerated in prison for about 20 years, 1964 or five? >> 1966-85. >> and the charge was having murdered three people and wounded one and a bar? >> just not having murdered somebody. i mean, to be accused of murder is bad enough, but to be accused of being a triple racist murder is doubly bad. that's what i was accused of being. a triple racist murderer. >> white race is? >> because all white people were killed. >> and it was a charge you at some of targeted than? >> because a black bartender had been killed by a white man and
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another part of town that night. they thought this was a racially revenged mode. but you also have to realize those times, at that time, 1966, the early '60s when the country was still segregated, you know, when black folks were not allowed to eat in restaurants or go to school or ride on certain parts of buses or drink out of a water fountain, or even have equal voting rights at the time, that was what was going on in this country at that time, which is a terrible thing. and so, that is what i was accused of being, a triple racist murderer. >> and inability right about growing up in a household -- and in the book you write about growing up in a household very vicious, growing up seeing her father across the living room with a shotgun.
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>> violence was outside but you've got to realize that this may i will be 74 years old. so my mother and father come from a generation where they thought that if a child put his hands on his parents, or even threatened his parents, that they brought you into this world, they will take you out of this world as well. that was the type of society that i grew up in. >> described to the people who are watching, who might want to read the book, why you would be facing your father with a shotgun. key with a shotgun facing you. >> well, because i was a very angry young man at the time, very angry. and i confronted my brother, my brother james, who was a highly successful academic. i mean, he was going to harvard. he was one of the youngest graduates from harvard university with a ph.d. he later became a superintendent
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of schools in boston. and i was in and out of reformatory schools, so my father had this sort of feud between which one he was going to report. and i confronted my brother, because when i can open the military in 1956, i heard that my brother was hanging out with homosexuals, you know, that he had known passionate when we were children growing up. when we were children all of these folks used to dress up on halloween like women, and they were better looking than the women on the streets, you know? that now he was on vacation home from harvard university and they were doing the same thing. so i confronted my brother about that. and we start fighting, and, of course, i beat him up. and that's when my father got
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involved in this. and my father jumped me because of that, and i pushed my father away and told him to put his hands on the, that i would allow know what to put their hands on me in anger anymore. and so my father ran and got his shotgun, and i ran and got my shotgun. this is the same thing that happened to marvin gay and his father, and that's what marvin gaye's father shot him, tilting. and had it not been for my mother, my father would've killed me as a. >> because your mother intervened and said you should go out of your. >> she said get away. >> what's interesting here is you just described herself as technically having been in jail for 20 years, 66-85, but the violence and the whole world of hatred that you described and he said that's been a jail for you for 40 plus years come and tell you discovered yourself. let me read it in from your bo
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book. this is an interesting moment because you say you will be 74 years old. you've been in jail, but you also write here i was a prize fighter at one point. i was a soldier at one point. i was a convict at one point. i was a jailhouse lawyer at one point. it says here you are executive director of a group that was called association defense of the wrongly convicted at one point. today you are see all of the international group. and it says, but if i had to choose an epitaph to be carved on my tombstone, remember, this is rubin "hurricane" carter speaking, it would simply read he was just enough. now, this became because somebody in a high school audience, you're speaking to the students, asked you what you thought for you epitaph. now, you're a man -- bob dylan wrote a song about you. nelson mandela has written a forward to this book and spoken about you, i know nelson mandela loves boxing. i remember him talking to me
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about how he loves boxing. any talks about someone like him who was in jail and has come out. so here's nelson mandela, rob devlin, even tony bennett you say. a big supporter. muhammad ali. the people of all know you. and now it comes time for you to speak about yourself and you say for epitaph, it should be, he was just enough to have the courage to stand up for his convictions, no matter what problems, his actions may have cost him. he was just enough to perform a miracle to wake up to escape the universal prison, to regain his humanity in living hell. he was just enough, just enough. so, when people hear this, just enough, i'm sure they will be thinking to themselves, well, just enough to get off? or just enough to escape or survive? wynette to make something bold or?

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CSPAN July 10, 2011 8:00am-9:30am EDT

Gordon Wood Education. (2011) Gordon Wood ('The Idea of America Reflections on the Birth of the United States.')

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